If you watched the Democratic convention at all last week especially once Hillary Clinton was through finally and fully passing the baton of her supporters over to Obama, you heard this message loud and clear. In regards to McCain and his policies, the message came through: "That's not change, that's more of the same." They made it powerfully and convincingly.
But the question is, was this just political sloganeering, or was their substance behind the talk. I contest that it was a bit of both. For a long time, I have been a John McCain supporter and defender of him and his policies. Especially when I was more conservative, I admired his blend of courage and conservatism. Willing to break away from the party line on occasion, willing to compromise to get things done (one of the most important qualities in a politician in these divisive times), as well as being a strong conservative.
Many of my conservative friends hated McCain for what they described as his lack of loyalty, his tendency (in their minds) to steal the spotlight with these ever so public displays of independence.
I have to say that this campaign really backs up that claim that he loves the spotlight. He loves being a celebrity while all the while flinging the label at Obama. In reality, like Bush he knows how to present himself as being the all American every man even though he's far from it.
Which brings me to the reasons why that McCain, in all likelihood would usher in basically a third Bush term, although perhaps a slightly more competent one at that:
He seems to have this love for seat of the pants, high risk/high reward style of politics that was so much a part of this administration's governing style. He seems to be a bit of a political cowboy. You can see this in his exuberant support of the Iraq invasion. In his over the top foreign policy views. You can see this in his background. Like Bush, he graduated at the bottom of his class, but unlike Bush he actually served in Vietnam. Like Bush, he had a prestigious father which helped him early in his career, unlike Bush he actually used that advantage to push himself forward to actually move beyond the legacy of his father into something all his own.
And this Palin pick really underscores his high risk/high reward persona. The fact that Palin was barely vetted really hits this point home. Though its true he probably had very little choice, it will either destroy his candidacy and potentially destroy Palin's career, or put him in contention for the white house.
He shares many of the same domestic views of Bush specifically and of the party generally. While he tends to deemphasize his domestic views, he does agree more than he disagrees with the President. domestically, as proven by his very conservative voting record in the Senate. From the privatization of social security to the promotion of school vouchers to solve our educational ills to his emphasis on gutting government programs (although ironically conservatives talk the talk while the continue to grow government in ways that align with their policies).
Finally, since running for the presidency, and because of his desire to win over and excite his hard to please base, he's had to transform himself even more so into being something very much like Bush. He voted to maintain Bush's tax cuts after he had originally voted against passing them. He has since deemphasized his abhorrence of torture and the suspension of civil liberties and has flip-flopped in his stance against off-shore drilling.
And the style of his campaign right now is much more Bush-like than McCain like. He has jettisoned his "straight talk express" and now limits the press's access to him. His message his highly managed, and he basically used the entire month of August to trash Obama in very dirty ways and barely even promoted his own policies.
Having said all of this I do believe a McCain's presidency would be what Bush's presidency could have been if Bush was actually qualified for president. Despite his over-exuberant support for the Iraqi invasion, I don't believe McCain himself would have done it if he were running the government at the time. Hard to know for sure, I know, but the invasion was such a stupid thing to do, that I have to believe that only a president as incompetent as Bush could have done it. I do believe he would be more willing to work with the Democrats, although given the way he's run this campaign, he will be far less effective at doing so now. He's burning Democratic bridges at every turn.
So, while I think the Democratic rhetoric was a lot about political sloganeering, it was a fair attack. McCain supported Bush's presidency from day one, he is now Bush's party's politician in chief. If McCain does not want to run with Bush's legacy wrapped around his neck, he must show America how and why he is different and how and why that will help to move America forward in the 21st century. In my mind, a tough task.
Its significant that Hurricane Gustav is approaching Louisiana today, sad and significant. Katrina was a poignant reminder of what can happen when we elect bad political leaders. The fact that we still have yet to re-build the city and have still not helped many of the victims of the disaster underscores just how bad this presidency has been.
It also marks the beginning of McCain's attempt with Palin to show that he would be a much better version of Bush Jr. His selection of Palin did a lot to soften the effects of the highly effective Democratic convention. Now, its their obligation to prove to the voting public that unlike much of the Bush presidency, there was an some substance behind the gimmick.